LatinNews Daily - 14 March 2022

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Colombia’s Duque visits Washington

Colombia: On 10 March, Colombia’s President Iván Duque met US President Joe Biden in Washington. The meeting took place amid bilateral tensions following a recent visit by a US delegation to Caracas which fuelled speculation that the US might lift oil sanctions on Venezuela. However, a joint statement released following the meeting reiterated that “the restoration of democracy” is necessary to “bring an end to the political, economic, and humanitarian crises” in Venezuela – implying that the US is not about to abandon its long-running pressure on the Nicolás Maduro administration without first securing democratic reforms. In a further sweetener for the Duque administration, Biden announced plans to grant Colombia ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ status, a designation for close US allies outside of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). While in the US Duque met various politicians and leaders including US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on 7 March, at CERAWeek, an annual forum for leaders in global energy held in Houston. Duque tweeted that he and Kerry discussed Colombia’s planned steps towards a clean energy transition, ensuring that the private sector commits to zero emissions, and the country’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050. Kerry highlighted Colombia’s recent progress on climate change and praised its pledge to classify 30% of territory as protected land. As well as meeting Kerry, Duque gave a special address to energy leaders and entrepreneurs at CERAWeek, in which he highlighted his country’s recent environmental achievements and positioned Colombia as a leader in the energy transition market in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Central America: On 2 March US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his peers from Costa Rica (Rodolfo Solano Quirós), the Dominican Republic (Roberto Álvarez), and Panama (Erika Mouynes) in Washington, DC. According to a readout by US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on 3 March, Blinken expressed strong appreciation for the leadership role that the three governments took in forming the Alliance for Development in Democracy, which launched in September 2021 to promote democratic strengthening and economic growth through the tightening of the three countries’ commercial, demographic, and cultural ties. According to Price, Blinken thanked the three officials for their nations’ efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and norms, including “supporting the Nicaraguan people as they strive to re-establish democracy and protect their human rights from…abuses [by the Nicaraguan government]”. They also advanced ongoing joint efforts to improve safe, orderly, and humane migration throughout the region. On regional issues, the group further noted “Honduras’ progress in carrying out a democratic transition, and the Xiomara Castro administration’s efforts to combat corruption. They discussed the importance of restoring democracy in Haiti through a Haitian-led dialogue”. The group discussed plans to increase coordination on nearshoring, financing, and trade to bolster economic recovery from the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Chile: A US delegation headed by Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the US Small Business Administration, a US government agency, travelled to Chile to attend the inauguration of Gabriel Boric as the country’s new president. Guzman tweeted that the US and Chile “are enduring partners and allies for promoting human rights and regional peace and prosperity” and that US President Joe Bidenlooks forward to continued close collaboration” with the new administration. As well as Guzman, the US delegation included US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols who, ahead of the inauguration, met senior government officials and representatives from the incoming administration to reinforce US-Chilean cooperation on democracy and democratic institutions, regional migration, climate action, “and our joint commitment to human rights throughout the Americas”, according to a US State Department press release. Nichols was also due to meet with officials from the outgoing Sebastián Piñera administration to “thank them for their governance” as well as the American Chamber of Commerce to discuss economic recovery due to multiple challenges brought on by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Mexico: On 2 March Mexico’s foreign ministry (SRE) said that thanks to the cooperation outlined in the Bicentennial Framework (the US-Mexico security agreement), Mexico’s attorney general’s office (FGR) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) successfully concluded the extradition to Mexico of Rafael Olvera for alleged fraud in the Ficrea case, in which more than 6,000 mostly elderly individuals were defrauded by the credit union Ficrea. According to the SRE, Olvera allegedly committed crimes "which included the violation of the savings act." The SRE highlights that “Mexican and US authorities are providing tangible results in the fight against impunity and corruption as part of the renewed framework of security cooperation between both countries”. According to ICE, Olvera entered the US in Laredo, Texas with an authorised work visa on 8 November 2014. On 22 November 2016, Mexican officials issued a warrant for his arrest for fraud, and he was arrested on 24 May 2019.

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